The digital divide stands for the gap amid people, households, companies, as well as regions with respect to use of information, communication, and technology (Vehovar, Sicherl & Husing et al., 2006). It also refers to the gap that exists between individuals who are currently employed and able to use ICT effectively and those who are not because of the different levels of numeracy, literacy, and technical skills. The digital divide has resulted from factors, such as economic, social, and geographical historical, and behavioral, as well as generation aspects or the physical inability of people (Curtin, 2001). This paper will focus on the geographical factors.
There are big differences between world continents/regions when it comes to the internet usage and the internet. Whitacre and Mills (2007) argue “as residential internet access shifts toward high-speed connections, a gap emerges in rural high-speed access relative to urban high speed access and one of the potential causes of this high-speed digital divide include rural-urban differences in place” (p. 249). It is also difficult to access the internet in rural areas, and thus, this fact has contributed greatly to the digital divide. There are individuals who are not able to gain access to ICT or fast ICT due to the areas where they live, even though they have money or knowledge. For instance, the geographical digital divide is evident in the United Kingdom. Broadband users in different roads may enjoy different download speeds in the UK. Three of the top slowest streets are in Lincolnshire where speed is about 37 times slower than the national average of 9 Mbps (Clarke, 2012). Such geographical issues mean that some households do not get used to appreciate and enjoy the full benefits of most online services. They have some difficulties with a very slow dial-up internet connection that makes it almost impossible to get access to various multimedia sites and web features.
Section 2- Position Analysis (Macro)
Geographical factors play an important role in the perceived gap between individuals who can access the latest information technologies and individuals who cannot do it. The geographical digital divide remains in both developing and developed nations. There have been several researches’, which have shown the divide in different continents, regions, and areas. According to Greenstein and Prince (2007), most of the researches’ concentrate on the limitations related to internet accessibility amid the rural and town areas. In most developed regions in the world, the geographical divide results from a problem regarded as “Last Mile,” which is related to broadband access. It refers to establishing a connection between subscribers and the closest internet access point. It is particularly a problem in the sparsely populated area. With broadband technologies, the line quality reduces with the length of the line as individuals who living more than 5 kilometres away from a broadband enabled phone fail to receive the asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL). Wood (2007) conducted a detailed empirical analysis of broadband access in rural areas in Pennsylvania, U.S. The study revealed that it is difficult for small remote islands and mountainous areas to get access when it comes to the provision of broadband services. It means that people in the islands and mountainous areas are not privileged to access the internet due to the geographical condition.
In Japan, the broadband penetration rate is low in peripheral regions and high in three main urban areas, Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo. Unlike Pennsylvania, the Hokuriku and Chubu regions, which are mountainous areas, have better broadband access numbers compared to the nationwide average (Arai & Naganuma, 2010). The two scholars also noted that most Telecom companies prefer to put up FTTH (Fiber to the Home) networks in regions where there are the most possible users. The major cities and metropolitan regions take a leading position in the use of FTTH. This means that people in regions with less population do not enjoy FTTH use. There is a disadvantaged population on the short end of the geographical digital divide.
In Japan, the geographical location is an imperative factor in the digital divide. The percentage of individuals’ connection to the internet resources through a personal computer decreases with the size of the city. Key cities have higher rates of the internet diffusion than smaller ones, followed by villages and smaller towns. In Korea, geography is also a key aspect contributing to unequal access to ICT resources. The regions where an individual lives make a big difference. It is worth stressing that the differences of distribution of computers, internet access, and the World Wide Web are significant in different regions. The digital divide between the Korea’s capital city, Seoul, and the rest of the regions, between the rural and urban areas, is significant. Huh and Kim (2003) studied the regional internet information flows in South Korea and called for explicit course of action measures of the local and governments in order to deal with the issue of the regional inequality. Seoul led the nation with nearly half of the total ICT access and information flows (48.7%) whereas the rural areas had almost no ICT access. An astoundingly large number of internet hyperlink domains (85.45) were registered only within Seoul. Kwon (2003) also argued that problems exist concerning digital divide amid urban and rural areas in Korea. This shows the digital divide that is caused by geographical factors does still exist; nevertheless, measures have been put underway in various regions to address the disparity, which means that it will reduce with time.
Section 3: Position Analysis (Micro)
Digital divide arising from geographical factors has a significant impact on people’s personal life. The inability to access ICT resources because of geographical location negatively affects home, school and work matters. When it comes to school, the availability of the large amount of information on the internet would be curtailed, and this would limit the quality of school research projects and papers. Secondly, it limits communication with the teachers and learners to ‘face to face’ as there is no internet, which provides an easier and faster way of communicating with classmates and teachers about school-related issues. At home, the lack of ICT resources limits entertainment as one cannot chat with friends online- there is no device for entertainment and social communications. The lack of ICT resources in the workplace reduces productivity. ICT benefits workers and usually represent an immediate and effective return on investment for organizations. ICT trained workers make fewer mistakes and work quicker, hence increasing their effectiveness.
Geographical factors have led to a digital divide, and it is quite evident in most places around the world. This is depicted by differences between regions and places when it comes to ICT resources access. When it comes to the internet, a gap does exist between rural internet speed access and urban internet speed access. People in rural areas have limited access to the latest information technologies if compared to those in urban areas. In addition, people in various territories, such as remote islands and mountainous areas, do not enjoy ICT services as they are difficult to reach. The broadband penetration rate is also low in some regions and high in other regions because of the population density. The gap between individuals, companies, households, or regions when it comes to access of ICT resources has led to social inequality as some people have been denied the privilege of enjoying the resources at home, school, and places of work because of their geographical location. Digital divide caused by geographical factors does still exist; though, some states have introduced measures in order to ensure that all regions are capable of enjoying the ICT resources.